Should American Foreign Policy Project Christian Values or Protect Christian Lives?

Joe Carter poses an interesting question  over at the Gospel Coalition’s blog: namely, whether Christians should press for foreign policies that (a) promote “Christian values” or (b) protect Christians?  He doesn’t quite come down on one side or another:

Some Christians in America believe, as do most secularists, that religious belief has no role to play in shaping foreign policy. But since all politics is rooted in religious presuppositions, all policies are shaped by some form of religious belief. It hardly seems wise for Christians to adopt the preferences of secularism rather than give credence to the commands of Christ. Foreign policy is merely an extension of the same principles that should drive our domestic policy—a God-impelled love of neighbor.

Sen. Rubio is right that whenever possible we should promote Christian values such as justice, mercy, and religious tolerance. But one of the values that should take precedence is protection of the innocent, particularly when they are members of the institution that commands our primary political allegiance—the body of Christ.

When it comes to actions that affect our brothers and sisters across the globe, a guiding concern should be primum non nocere, “first, do no harm.” That can’t be our only consideration, of course, but it should be given due weight. We should be particularly wary of allowing some vague “national interest” trump our “familial interest,” especially when it leads to the displacement and slaughter of Christians around the globe.

How such policies should be shaped is a difficult question and requires considerable prudence. But one of our duties as American citizens is to lobby for policies we think are moral and just. That duty does not end at our shorelines but extends to the lands of our brothers and sisters who we will not see until we are together in our final home.

The central question, however, is left unstated: that is, what is the state for?  It doesn’t seem right to me to choose either (a) or (b), except unless we think that “Christian values” involve having the state do what it ought to be doing, preserving order, rendering justice, etc.  That’s a much bigger discussion than should be included in a blog post, but that’s the question we should be asking.

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2 responses to “Should American Foreign Policy Project Christian Values or Protect Christian Lives?

  1. Eric Lowe

    I would like to ask a quick clarifying question. In pursuing a foreign policy that conforms to God’s will, is our primary responsibility to Christians in other countries? That is, do we protect Christians because they are also innocent, one group that you mentioned, or because they are first part of the church? You use the word “particularly” but then describe the church as commanding our “primary” political allegiance. So is our support primary or incidental? Maybe always complimentary? This might include another set of assumptions about the role Christians play in other countries.

    Thanks for the great article!

  2. I guess my view is both (a) that our primary allegiance is always to the church and (b) that in occupying a political office we might be called on to act in ways that are detrimental to the particular temporal interests of other Christians. To put it as sharply as I can, Christians in political office might be called to pursue actions which end in the death of other Christians if such actions are required to achieve a kind of proximate justice (which is the only kind of justice available to us). Take the analogy of a police officer who is obligated by his office to arrest a person who committed a crime, regardless of whether that person is a Christian, Muslim, Big-10 football fan, whatever.

    The more difficult question is what we should do when we have the freedom to act in one way or another (both actions would be reasonably just) – should we then act in ways that benefit our fellow Christians? Perhaps, but I suspect those kinds of questions can only be answered on a case-by-case basis….

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